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  • Backstroke is one of the four competitive swimming strokes, performed on the back in a horizontal position. 

  • Key Takeaway

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What is DPS?

Distance per stroke (DPS) is a swimming measurement that refers to the distance a swimmer covers with each individual stroke cycle. It is an important metric to assess swimming efficiency and stroke effectiveness. Maximising DPS can lead to improved performance by reducing the number of strokes needed to cover a given distance. 

To measure DPS, swimmers typically count the number of strokes taken to complete a set distance, such as a lap in the pool. The distance covered in that lap is then divided by the number of strokes to calculate the average DPS. For example, if a swimmer completes a 25-meter lap in 15 strokes, their DPS would be 25/15 = 1.67 meters per stroke.

One stroke is one full pull, one whole arm movement through the water. During practice and training, swimmers can use only the stroke count for the same understanding instead of calculating the DPS. The lower the stroke count, the further swimmers have travelled on each stroke. The greater the stroke count, the less distance travelled in each stroke. Swimmers compare stroke counts over several laps, speeds, and training sessions.

When swimmers increase their stroke rate, the DPS tends to decrease. When swimmers focus on improving stroke length, stroke rate (speed) decreases. 

Increasing stroke length increases swimming efficiency. The longer a swimmer's arm is in motion underwater, the more water volume is moved during the pull phase, increasing propulsion for the same effort. 

Swimming efficiency is defined by increased swimming speed for the same or less effort or decreased effort whilst maintaining swimming speed. Swimmers often use an efficiency rating to calculate efficiency, adding stroke count to the time achieved.

Distance Per Stroke

DPS (Distance per Stroke) is a crucial metric in swimming that measures the distance covered with each stroke cycle. Maximizing DPS improves efficiency by reducing the number of strokes required to cover a distance. Swimmers calculate DPS by dividing the distance covered in a lap by the number of strokes taken. Increasing stroke length enhances efficiency as more water volume is moved during the pull phase. Maintaining a controlled glide with the leading arm allows for a complete pull and better stroke cycle control. By extending the arm towards the end of the pull phase, swimmers can maximize stroke length and improve DPS.

Controlling stroke length is to control the pull phase. The arm's changing shape controls the pull's effectiveness during the pull phase. Aim to extend your arm towards the end of your pull phase to maximise stroke length, increasing the duration your arm remains under the water. The pull phase is defined by the arm in motion underwater, so the end of the pull phase is defined by the arm breaching the water surface. Aim for your arm to breach the water surface extended. This does not mean to pull with a straight arm; there may be a degree of bend in the arm. If you feel your arm breach the water surface bent, on the following strokes, apply more effort to extend your arm towards the end of your stroke until your arm breaches the water surface extended. Note, once your arm breaches the water surface extended, seek to relax the arm. The rule of the recovery phase is to maintain the stroke cycle and not to disturb the pull phase (this is why many swimmers have different recovery techniques, but most good swimmers have a similar pull style). 

Due to the nature of freestyle, the leading arm enters the water before the other arm, the pulling arm, has finished the pull phase. If your leading arm starts pulling before the other arm has completed the pull phase, the pull will be cut short. Unless you are a sprinter, maintain a glide from your leading arm. A glide creates time for your pull phase (the other arn) to extend fully, increasing the strokes stability, and improves control for the start of the following stroke cycle. A glide is often perceived as reaching or stretching forward. Due to the orientation of the shoulder, if you reach or stretch forward (superior/ above the head), you encourage the leading arm to drop through the water (anterior/in front of the body). When the arm is held gliding before the pull phase, the shoulder is orientated to hold the arm back (posterior/ behind the body). When gliding, the arm should be controlled but relaxed. If you were to apply slightly more work to maintain the glide, you would use more effort to hold the arm back. The work originates in the shoulder and not the arm. The application of work to pull is the inverse of glide. When it is time to pull, move our arm out of the glide. 

How to Maximising Stroke Length

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